Takabuti was a young Theban woman who died in her twenties or early thirties towards the end of Ancient Egypt’s 25th Dynasty, c. 755-656 B.C.
The daughter of a Priest of Amun named Nespara and a woman named Tasenirit, Takabuti is believed to have been a married woman who lived and died in Thebes. She held two known titles, both of which were written upon her coffin in hieroglyphs; “Mistress of a Great House” and “Noblewoman”.
Buried in a cemetery in Western Thebes, Takabuti’s mummy was purchased in 1834 by Thomas Greg of Ballymenoch House, Holywood, Co. Down. It was on January 27th, 1835, that Takabuti’s mummy was unwrapped and studied for the first time at Belfast Natural History Society’s museum. Irish Egyptologist, Edward Hincks, helped with the studies and deciphered the hieroglyphs upon Takabuti’s coffin; revealing the titles previously mentioned; “Mistress of a Great House” and “Noblewoman”.
Upon the 185th anniversary of the unwrapping of Takabuti’s mummy, results of a modern study of Takabuti’s remains were published to the public. These tests of which Takabuti’s remains underwent included x-rays, C.T. scanning, hair analysis and radio carbon dating. The varied tests and their results revealed fascinating insight into Takabuti’s physical health which also revealed peculiar oddities about her too. All the while, they finally certified how Takabuti had come to her death.
The modern anayalsis of Takabuti’s mummy took place at the Kingsbridge Private Hospital. The team consisted of Professor Rosalie David, Dr Bart van Dongen, Dr Konstantina Drosou, Dr Sharon Fraser, Professor Tony Freemont, Drs Roger Forshaw, Robert Loynes and Keith White from The University of Manchester.
The team revealed a wonderful yet tragic insight into Takabuti, including righting a wrong the previous Egyptologists of the 19th century unwrapping had made. It was thought by those in 1885, that Takabuti’s heart was either packed incorrectly or missing, however, modern C.T. Scanning revealed that Takabuti’s heart had been perfectly preserved within her chest and was in healthy condition at the time of death. Such a thing may not be of much importance in this modern age, but to the Ancient Egyptian, the soul resided in the heart, and had to be present or at the least well accounted for with a replacement organ at the time of embalming. Takabuti could rest or travel peacefully through the afterlife knowing her heart was present.
Rather uniquely, X-Rays revealed to the team that Takabuti possessed something that only 0.02% of the population have, which was an extra tooth! Adults generally have 32 adult teeth yet Takabuti had 33. Another possibly strange find which leads Egyptologists rushing to dig into further exploration regarding migration to and from Ancient Egypt, is the fact that Takabuti’s Genetic Footprint came back as H4a1, which Geneticist Dr Konstantina Drosou addresses,“Takabuti’s genetic footprint H4a1 is relatively rare as it has not been found to my knowledge in any ancient or modern Egyptian population.”
Sadly, the anaylais of Takabuti also revealed that she was the victim of murder, rather than illness or a natural cause of death. Testing revealed she had been stabbed in the back, possibly even by an axe. The packing of her wound by the Ancient Egyptian embalmers was evident. Dr. Loynes who performed the CT analysis and biopsy retrieval of material for DNA and other analyses of Takabuti commented; “The CT scan reveals that she sustained a severe wound to the back of her upper left chest wall.This almost certainly caused her rapid death.” Dr Loynes is a retired orthopaedic surgeon and honorary lecturer in the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology.
Professor Eileen Murphy, a bioarchaeologist at Queen’s University Belfast, poignantly remarked; “It is frequently commented that she looks very peaceful lying within her coffin but now we know that her final moments were anything but and that she died at the hand of another.”
Professor Rosalie David, an Egyptologist from The University of Manchester spoke regarding the genetic findings of Takabuti, and said “This study adds to our understanding of not only Takabuti, but also wider historical context of the times in which she lived: the surprising and important discovery of her European heritage throws some fascinating light on a significant turning-point in Egypt’s history.
This study, which used cutting-edge scientific analysis of an ancient Egyptian mummy – demonstrates how new information can be revealed thousands of years after a person’s death. Our team – drawn from institutions and specialisms – was in a unique position to provide the necessary expertise and technology for such a wide-ranging study.”